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June 4, 2010

I didn’t report yesterday because there wasn’t enough going on here to make to worthwhile.

Today (Friday) more progress was made and the mood of the delegates is more hopeful.

For a long time it has been realized by those seeking progress that there needs to be a melding of the two separate negotiating bodies here and in the previous climate conferences – the AWG/KP working group on extending the Kyoto Protocol and getting stronger commitments, and the AWG/LCA focusing on long term cooperation regardless whether the Kyoto Protocol continues or obtains adequate new commitments.  For selfish reasons, there is a group of countries that have resisted collaboration between these two parties, some non-party developing countries  and the US and Australia which were not Kyoto parties fearing that if the two were combined they might decide to impose Kyoto binding commitments on them, opponents of action wanting separate forums in which to play their destructive role. The AOSIS Association of Small Island States, with the support of several developing countries, surprised everyone by proposing joint discussions of the two, with very little objection, and the Chairs of the two parties have met and said that they would announce a decision on Monday.  This would be a significant break-through.

Also indicative of the more cooperative spirit here, the delegates in the AWG/KP unanimously approved today the Chair’s draft of the provisions for technological transfer, based largely on the work accomplished in Copenhagen and reflected in the Copenhagen Accord, without a word of dissent.
This negotiation is undoubtedly the most difficult international agreement ever undertaken, in view of the great diversity of the strongly held positions and interests involved and the hugeness of the undertaking – all the more so in light of its being conducted during the world’s greatest recession since the depression in the 1930s. It is very hard for countries experiencing enormous deficits and unemployment to step up to the plate with the hundreds of billions of dollars needed to accomplish an effective agreement. Failure is not an option, however, since it would jeopardize the future of the planet.

The complexity of the undertaking was demonstrated in the AWG/KP negotiations today that I attended,  seeking to determine the modalities of future emission reduction and financial commitments for forestry protection and adaptation costs for developing countries under a new agreement.  There are unresolved differences of what credit should be given for prior assistance, what consideration should be given for the historic responsibility of developed countries for the climate change threats, what baseline should be used, the need to have a comparable commitment starting date for all countries (some have made reduction commitments from 1990 as called for in the Kyoto Protocol, some as the US from 1995, some from business as usual. Re forest protection, issues were raised whether averaging should be allowed, forested countries like New Zealand saying that their forest growth was very uneven and they should get credit in lean years for exceeding their targets in good years.  There still are lots of issues to be resolved.

Then there is the question of how you reach consensus defined as unanimity when countries like Bolivia, Venezuela and Cuba maintain that the whole burden of action should be carried by the developed countries, that the allowed emissions should be cut in half, that developed countries should be required to reduce their emissions by 50% by 2017, a clearly impossible goal – just to be obstreperous.

The job before the delegates couldn’t be more challenging.